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Groups Urge Maine To Join 40 States, D.C. With Online Voter Registration

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Some lawmakers are hoping to see Maine join the 40 other states plus Washington, D.C., which have online voter registration. (Lakshmiprasad/Adobe Stock)
Some lawmakers are hoping to see Maine join the 40 other states plus Washington, D.C., which have online voter registration. (Lakshmiprasad/Adobe Stock)
 By Lily Bohlke, Public News Service - ME - Producer, Contact
April 6, 2021

AUGUSTA, Maine -- Maine is one of ten states that does not allow residents to register to vote online, but a bill before the Legislature would change that.

The state legislative Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs heard testimony for Legislative Document 1126, which would create an online voter registration system by 2023.

Meagan Sway, policy director for the ACLU of Maine, said it would increase access to the ballot.

Currently, to register, Mainers have to fill out a voter registration card and provide proof of residency and photo ID in-person, either at town offices or city halls, Motor Vehicle branch offices, most social service agencies or voter registration drives.

"COVID showed that we can make changes, that we can make voting more accessible, that we can include more people in our democracy," Sway contended. "And online registration is one of those ways in which we can modernize and expand this access."

Sway pointed out Maine has traditionally high voter participation rates, boosted by same-day registration and no-excuse absentee voting.

She added online voter registration would further boost ease and access for veterans, college students, those who work long hours during the week, as well as Mainers who live in rural areas or have mobility issues.

Shenna Bellows, Maine Secretary of State, said modernizing the voting system through online voter registration is one of her top priorities.

She reported at a Monday hearing, lawmakers appeared interested in the policy changes but with lots of questions about the mechanics.

And because so many other states already have online voter registration - 40 of them, plus Washington D.C. - she hopes Maine will be able to leverage the best practices from across the country to get it right.

"Online voter registration doesn't change the requirements to register to vote," Bellows stressed. "What it does is make the process more convenient, more accessible, and potentially more secure."

She also hopes to see some changes Maine made in 2020 specifically for the pandemic made permanent. For example, having secure drop boxes as an alternative to the mail for voters who fill out absentee ballots.

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